A large collection of archaeological artifacts has returned to Alaska, nearly 60 years after the items were excavated near Point Barrow. The Birnirk collection represents a phase of prehistoric Eskimo culture dating back to 500 A.D.
"This collection has tremendous research significance,” said Jeff Rasic, acting curator of archaeology at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. “The Birnirk site is the ‘type site’ for the Birnirk culture, which occupies a key juncture in the branches of Eskimo prehistory and the first decidedly Eskimo phase of cultural development seen on the Alaska mainland.”
The collection was excavated in the early 1950s by a group of Harvard graduate students headed by Wilbert Carter. They completed a three-season program of archaeological work with the support of the Arctic Research Laboratory, established in Barrow by the Office of Naval Research. The collection is owned by the U.S. Navy and was housed for decades at the Harvard Peabody Museum. Read more.
FAIRBANKS — A collection of ancient Eskimo artifacts from Point Barrow has returned to Alaska after being discovered in the 1950s.
The Birnirk collection includes 26,000 items from a site dating back to about 500 A.D. Excavated by Harvard graduate students led by Wilbert Carter, the collection was housed at the Harvard Peabody Museum for decades. It is owned by the U.S. Navy and has returned to Alaska to the University of Alaska Museum of the North.
Acting Curator of Archaeology Jeff Rasic said the collection presents all sorts of potential for the university.
“This collection has tremendous research significance,” he said in a university press release.
Rasic said the Birnirk culture was during a time between Eskimo prehistory and the first Eskimo cultural development. Read more.
A team of researchers led by the University of Colorado Boulder has discovered the first prehistoric bronze artifact made from a cast ever found in Alaska, a small, buckle-like object found in an ancient Eskimo dwelling and which likely originated in East Asia.
The artifact consists of two parts — a rectangular bar, connected to an apparently broken circular ring, said CU-Boulder Research Associate John Hoffecker, who is leading the excavation project. The object, about 2 inches by 1 inch and less than 1 inch thick, was found in August by a team excavating a roughly 1,000-year-old house that had been dug into the side of a beach ridge by early Inupiat Eskimos at Cape Espenberg on the Seward Peninsula, which lies within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.
Both sections of the artifact are beveled on one side and concave on the other side, indicating it was manufactured in a mold, said Hoffecker, a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. A small piece of leather found wrapped around the rectangular bar by the research team yielded a radiocarbon date of roughly A.D. 600, which does not necessarily indicate the age of the object, he said.
"I was totally astonished," said Hoffecker. "The object appears to be older than the house we were excavating by at least a few hundred years." Read more.
NOATAK, Alaska — University of Alaska Fairbanks officials say researchers have discovered ancient artifacts in northwest Alaska.
The discovery of several decorated clay discs was made this summer while archaeologists excavated at the site of previously discovered petroglyphs and three prehistoric dwellings at Noatak National Preserve.
Officials say the excavation team included researchers from UAF’s Museum of the North and the National Park Service.
The team assembled at the site discovered almost 40 years ago to document the rock art and to excavate partially underground house pits.
Museum of the North archaeologist Scott Shirar says in a news release the discs appear to be a unique artifact for Alaska. He says the excavation covered only a small area and the discovery indicates there are probably more artifacts. (source)
A centuries-old Haida canoe has been discovered near the Prince of Wales Island village of Kasaan, Sealaska Corp. announced Tuesday. Work on the nearly 34-foot vessel may have stopped around the same time that Columbus sailed from Spain.
A surveyor with Sealaska’s subsidiary, the Sealaska Timber Corporation, spotted the canoe under a heavy layer of moss while working on forested land owned by the Alaska Native regional corporation last winter.
"(Engineers and field personnel) are instructed to immediately secure the area" when they recognize potential historical objects, Sealaska Executive Vice President Rick Harris said in a written statement. "(To) stop any activities that may negatively affect the cultural resource, and contact Sealaska Heritage Institute, which oversees these matters." Steps were quickly taken to protect the area until a full investigation could take place. Read more.
KODIAK, Alaska - Excavation work for a new retaining wall for the Baranov Museum Saturday unearthed a part of Kodiak history when an on-site archaeologist recognized deliberately stacked rocks and old wood planks in the exposed earth. She then began documenting what is most likely a structure from the era of Russian colonization.
The find was not completely unexpected. For the 200th anniversary of the museum building, known in Kodiak as the Erskine House, a 2008 community archaeology project excavated two pits near the area of the retaining wall. The archaeology project was conducted in partnership with the Alutiiq Museum.
Found in those excavation pits was similar wood planking, said archaeologist Sarah Corbin. One of the pits included a gunflint that was linked with the Russian era (1743-1867). Read more.
FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The remains of hundreds of Alaska Natives will be blessed at a ceremony this weekend.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner says the ceremony is being held Saturday at the UA Museum of the North.
Jim Whitney manages the UA museum archaeology collection. He says remains began arriving at the museum in the 1920s, largely through private donations and discoveries during excavations.
He says the Fairbanks museum has been working with tribes to return the remains. But, he says, none have been returned since 2008.
Event organizer Candyce Childers says the ceremony is meant to draw attention to the 340 sets of human remains still in the museum’s possession. Following the ceremony, a panel discussion about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is planned. (source)
The next time you’re having a disagreement with a work colleague or annoying neighbour, bear this in mind: Chances are you’re related.
A new study of DNA patterns throughout the world suggests that North America was originally populated by no more than 70 people.
Most experts agree that, around 14,000 years ago, a group of humans crossed the land bridge that connected what is now Siberia in Russia with Alaska.
But new research has shown just how small that group was, venturing into a vast continent from Asia during the last Ice Age.
Up to now DNA analyses of the intrepid and original ‘founding fathers’ looked at a particular gene, using estimates and academic assumptions on constant population sizes over time.
The new study, by Professor Jody Hey, came at the subject from a different angle - looking at nine genomic regions to account for variations in single genes, and assuming that sizes of founding populations changed over time. Read more.